Publications

    David Dapice, May 2017 

    The paper provides an updated assessment of the danger that the Rakhine state conflict poses to all of Myanmar in terms of cost in lives, international reputation, depressed FDI, ongoing violence and sectarian conflict. The author makes the case that settling the issue will require a strategy that extends beyond restoring security, one that offers a real possibility of success at a political and economic level. He offers that the path forward lies in enabling moderate local and central leaders to bring about a new idea of citizenship, enhancing local socio-economic prospects by investing in roads, power and irrigation, as well as by restricting illegal foreign fishing off the cost of Rakhine, and by extending health and education services throughout the province to all residents.

    David Dapice, February 2017, revised April 2017

    In this paper, David Dapice, considers the factors that are at the heart of the instability in Rakhine state and suggests options for approaching citizenship and mobility issues and for overcoming the constraints on implementing development in the state.

    David Dapice, December 2016 

    A year after the election that gave an historical victory to the National League for Democracy, Myanmar faces a critical juncture. Ethnic war and religious strife stubbornly remain, democratic gains remain fragile and major challenges, from mineral and hydroelectric revenues, to land insecurity, to illicit drug production and use have yet to be tackled meaningfully. In foreign policy, a resurgent China has indicated that it intends to play an active role in settling conflicts along its border and perhaps further afield. Meanwhile, an expectant public looks for signs of progress from a new government that is still finding its way. This paper argues that the internal and external challenges faced by Myanmar are linked, and suggests that economic progress, unity and effective independence will remain elusive (or could decline) unless the leadership explores pragmatic solutions to ethnic and religious grievances and produces economic growth that is high, sustainable, and widely shared. Click here to read in Burmese version

    David Dapice, October 2016 

    Achieving sustainable peace in Myanmar requires a comprehensive effort which involves real negotiations between the army, government and remaining non-signatory armed ethnic groups. This paper makes the case that the resulting Grand Bargain will have to involve some degree of limited autonomy of states and natural resource revenue sharing. It will provide a basis for compensating armed groups on both sides for lost revenue, bringing revenues to Kachin state for development, and facilitating the NLD government’s investment in development spending for the rest of Myanmar in line with its priorities. Given the sizeable estimated total value of jade sales and the fact that, in the author’s estimate, official government collections for jade now amount to only 3% of sales, the paper examines possible modalities for taxing jade at a reasonable level and sharing these revenues in ways that makes durable progress possible. Several other key challenges to national unity are briefly addressed as well. Click here to read in Burmese version
     

    David Dapice, May 2016  

    Kachin has just over 3% of Myanmar’s population but a much larger share of its natural resource wealth, notably in the form of large jade deposits and significant hydropower potential. Research findings indicate that currently most of that wealth is going to private and foreign interests, depriving both Kachin state and the nation of resources they need and should have. The author argues that if Myanmar is to remain united, grow stronger and richer, and attract the states so they wish to belong in the Union, it will be necessary to capture a fair share of this wealth and use it for nation-building purposes, especially in Kachin state. Options for sensible approaches to hydropower, jade revenue sharing, and the state’s development more generally are discussed.

    Over 40 hydropower projects are under consideration in Myanmar. While past hydro investments score poorly on environmental impact mitigation and locally shared economic benefit, this paper argues that the country’s domestic electricity demand cannot be met adequately by other renewable energy sources alone. The paper makes the case that emphasis should be placed on developing a transparent, productive and meaningful review process which embeds mechanisms for balancing national and local interests and for securing appropriate expertise to ensure comprehensive assessments. The issue of weighing domestic need versus export markets is also considered. Click to read the Burmese version

    David Dapice, October 2016

    Religious conflict in Rakhine state threatens the development of Rakhine state and even the stability of Myanmar. In the paper, the author reviews recent 2014 census results and other data that show no long-term increase in the modest share of Muslims in the population, debunking the arguments of some extremist groups. The paper makes the case that a focused development program including investment in village scale irrigation, improved farm and financial services, better infrastructure and labor mobility is needed to improve living conditions for all groups and to provide an environment in which mutual trust can gradually be reestablished. Click here to read in Burmese version.

    Myanmar has less electricity per capita than Bangladesh and only a third of its population is connected to grid electricity. Although Myanmar has huge reserves of potential hydroelectricity, this paper argues that more is at stake than electricity supply, and that the political implications of hydro development are crucial to a peaceful and united future for Myanmar. It cautions that hydroelectric projects undertaken in the past decade had exceedingly disadvantageous terms that serve Myanmar poorly, and that if a stable political framework that promotes national unity is going to be realized, how hydroelectricity projects are approved and developed, and how the revenue benefits are distributed are as important as the electricity itself. Click to read the Burmese version

    David Dapice, December 2014

    Myanmar has much less electricity per person than most Asian nations and also has a lower share of households getting grid power than its neighbors. While the supply of electricity has begun to rise in recent years, the hydro capacity and natural gas expected to be available from 2014-2019 will be insufficient to meet demand in the near future. This paper explores constraints to scaling up capacity and offers suggestions of medium term and long term steps to boost energy supply for Myanmar. (Click to read the English version.) (Click to read the Burmese version.)

    David Dapice, December 2014

    Myanmar has much less electricity per person than most Asian nations and also has a lower share of households getting grid power than its neighbors. While the supply of electricity has begun to rise in recent years, the hydro capacity and natural gas expected to be available from 2014-2019 will be insufficient to meet demand in the near future. This paper explores constraints to scaling up capacity and offers suggestions of medium term and long term steps to boost energy supply for Myanmar.

    Click to read the Burmese version

    David Dapice and Tom Vallely, December 2013 (Revised October 2014)

    Despite the encouraging developments of the past two years, Myanmar faces an uncertain future fraught with very difficult political, economic, and social challenges. This paper examines where Myanmar has been, where it is, and what kinds of changes are needed to create conditions for unity, peace, and inclusive and sustainable development. While the analysis in this paper is cautionary and often negative, its purpose is to solve problems, not complain. Creating a coalition for nation building will be easier if the poor current situation is better understood. Achieving the desired goals will not be easy and will likely take longer than many understand or imagine. Avoiding narrow coalitions that would continue current extractive policies is necessary to move forward. However, a feasible path exists and many current government policies are meant to put the nation on that path. This paper aims to contribute to those efforts and build on the progress already made.

    David Dapice and Nguyen Xuan Thanh, July 2013

    Myanmar is a very poor country with some promising political developments but up to now limited economic reform. The historically low growth and high poverty rates have fed social tensions, most evident in the current Buddhist-Muslim violence. The continuing military pressure on ethnic states that do not effectively surrender to the Myanmar Army represents an old extractive almost feudal approach that forgoes real political negotiation in favor of occupation and exploitation of resource-rich areas. However, there are tentative signs of changes by the government. This paper proposes a set of policies to transform the current situation by combining greater tax revenues from mineral resources with better governance to create political unity and market-based economic progress.

    Dapice, David, and Thomas Vallely. 2013. “Against the Odds: Building a Coalition”. Read the full report Abstract

    Using a New Federalism for Unity and Progress in Myanmar
    David Dapice and Thomas Vallely, March 2013

    When in 2010, the President of the Union of Myanmar, the Speaker of the Lower House and several ministers decided to push for a rapid political opening, they engineered what could be called a critical juncture. This critical juncture now provides the country with an opportunity to move forward, not only with faster economic growth, but also with better quality growth and political change that will unify the nation and create broad progress. In exploring a possible approach toward unity and progress, this paper uses the framework developed in Why Nations Fail, a recent book on economic and political development and also refers to the idea of “illiberal democracy“ articulated by Fareed Zakaria. The basic idea is that a broad coalition of the incumbent party, the democratic opposition, ethnic groups and the military is needed to fundamentally change Myanmar’s past failed orientation. This broad coalition should work for a new federalism in which states (at a minimum) have fairly elected governors and meaningful revenue sources so they can run many of their own affairs. Recognizing that central to real progress is a transition from a repressive, extractive and exclusive political system with crony businesses to a broadly inclusive political system that spreads economic opportunity, the paper argues that broad political and economic change need to go hand in hand.

    David Dapice, April 2013

    Exports of rice to China have exploded and are now over half of total exports. Because of high support prices for paddy and thus for rice in China, it is profitable to send rice and even paddy to China from Myanmar, where the imported rice can sometimes get higher local prices. This could draw rice away from “normal“ exports out of Yangon and even raise the price of paddy (and thus rice) in Myanmar to a level above the world price, causing imports to Myanmar. Imports to Myanmar would keep the price of rice lower than if the China price set Myanmar’s price. The major point for Myanmar is to use this as an opportunity for farmers to get higher prices and to produce more, but this will take different credit and input policies. This is a limited opportunity, for China may prefer to import rice officially by sea rather than informally through Yunnan. Indeed, border checks intensified in March 2013, reducing flows.

    David Dapice, December 2012 

    The Asian Development Bank (ADB) recently released an excellent report on Myanmar’s energy sector. In it they presented estimates of future demand growth by the Ministry of Electric Power for electricity. They show demand doubling from 12,459 million kWh in 2012-13 to 25,683 million kWh in 2018-19, a compound rate of growth of 13% a year. However, the actual production in 2012 appears to be only 10,000 million kWh, and it is unlikely that moving to 2012-13 will raise the total much beyond 10,500 million kWh. Of this output, about 1700 million kWh will be exported. (Electricity exports exceeded 1700 million kWh in both 2010 and 2011.) So, the likely electricity output in 2012-13 available for domestic use will be 3659 kWh below this year's demand estimate. Production for domestic use would have to jump by 42% to equal the expected demand. This is a massive shortfall and demand grows by over 1500 million kWh in 2013-14. So for 2013-14, supply net of exports would have to grow by nearly 5200 million kWh to account for the existing shortfall and projected growth, or by nearly 60% over 2012-13.

    David Dapice, September 2012 

    Myanmar, long isolated from western economies due to its government, is one of the poorest and worst governed countries in the world. Ruled for many years by a reclusive dictator, senior general Than Shwe, it was dependent on China for diplomatic protection and arms. Trade and investment deals reflected its lack of alternatives. China’s “One nation, two oceans“ policy and Yunnan’s “Bridgehead“ strategy envisioned Myanmar providing access to the sea via gas and oil pipelines, deep sea ports, naval docking facilities and transport for Yunnan. Yunnan through its Southern Grid along with CPI (China Power International) saw Myanmar’s Kachin state as providing ample hydroelectric supplies for the landlocked Chinese province. Deals were signed under General Than Shwe without popular review or consultation with the Kachin whose state had most of the hydroelectric sites.

    David Dapice, May 2012 

    Electricity is a fundamental input to every modern economy. Electricity consumption per capita in Myanmar is among the lowest in Asia and had been growing very slowly since the 1980s. It gently grew from 45 kWh per capita in 1987 to 99 kWh in 2008, a 3.8 percent annual growth rate. However, since 2008, the production of electricity has jumped very quickly. This 50 percent jump in three years is about 15 percent per year, far higher than in the past. The CSO does not report any increase in installed capacity since 2009/10, so the existing system is being worked much more intensively. This creates problems, such as the risk of sudden outages from failures in generators. Indeed, there has been an increase in blackouts in the Yangon and Mandalay areas in the last year in spite of higher output; and even during the wet season. With increases in tourism, exports and overall economic activity, electricity demand will continue to soar. Even with 2011/12 output, estimated consumption in Myanmar is only about 160 kWh per capita, compared to 2009 consumption of over 250 kWh per capita in Bangladesh and nearly 600 in Indonesia. Vietnam had over 1000 kWh per capita in 2011.

    David Dapice, May 2012 

    There is an immense challenge facing the leadership in Myanmar. They have to negotiate a nation and to reform the basic assumptions and processes that have ruled for the past decades. They need to make the new system more representative, more inclusive, less favorable to a narrow group of businessmen and government or army officials, and more broadly successful. The new system has to give minority groups a reason to want to be part of the new nation. That means not only creating new sources of growth and wealth, but also making rules that ensure the benefits go to many more than the relatively narrow groups who have largely benefitted in the past. The technical adjustments needed in the exchange rate, the financial system, taxing and spending, infrastructure investments, and competition policy will all ultimately be judged on the ability of the policy package to create the conditions for national unity and progress. The government needs to have a vision of this goal and how the pieces fit together. Getting it to work in a shaky world economy with new and still evolving institutions is a huge challenge. But for those who have seen the past clearly for what it was, there can be no doubt that moving forward together is better than going back or staying put.

    Dwight H. Perkins, April 2012 

    Myanmar faces fundamental choices about its economic future when the sanctions are lifted, and many of these choices will be present even if some of the sanctions remain. There is no technical reason why Myanmar cannot achieve a GDP growth rate of 8 percent a year or more for several decades. If the country did achieve a growth rate of that magnitude, the standard of living of its people would double over the next decade and increase four-fold over the next two decades. Poverty would fall dramatically, first in the more developed regions and then nationwide. In the most recent two decades, in contrast, Myanmar's electric power consumption suggests that GDP growth per capita has at best been negligible and may even have been negative.

    Dapice, David O., Michael J. Montesano, Anthony J. Saich, and Thomas J. Vallely. 2012. “Appraising the Post-Sanctions Prospects for Myanmar's Economy: Choosing the Right Path”. Read Full Paper Abstract

    David O. Dapice, Michael J. Montesano, Anthony J. Saich, Thomas J. Vallely, January 2012

    This paper is the first iteration in an ongoing effort by the Ash Center and Proximity Designs to describe a growth strategy for Myanmar that takes account of political and economic realities – assuming that sanctions will soon be removed. Myanmar is a country facing a difficult political and economic transition. In spite of the implications of official statistics and recent surveys, it is a very poor country, long mired in conflict and cut off from much of the world. It has an immense struggle ahead, as it tries to create a more modern and capable state apparatus, a competitive private sector and economy, and an economic and political system that reflects popular sentiments. It is not just behind its neighbors; it is starting from a different place altogether.

Pages